Friday, 2 October 2015

Places that passed me by .......... nu 1 the Livesey Museum for Children on the Old Kent Road

Now I never knew about the Livesey Museum for Children although I must have passed the building countless times.

It is on the Old Kent Road just past the Gas Works and there the connection begins because once a long time ago it was a free public library provided by Sir George Livesey, benefactor, designer and chairman of the South Metropolitan Gas Company.

He too was someone I never knew anything about and perhaps in time I will dig deep into his life and visit his grave in Nunhead Cemetery.

For the present I know he was connected with the gas company from 1848 till 1908, that there is a public hall and war memorial which bears his name along with a Professorship at the University of Leeds and interestingly enough “was instrumental in introducing a plan for sharing the profits of his company with his employees.”*

That said the plan hides a fascinating little piece of  history in which the initiative may have been  partly motivated by a move against the gas workers’ union, strike in 1889 and i turn the creation of the Telegraph Hill Park.**

Now I don’t know to what extent the creation of the free library in 1890 fits into the picture.

It lasted as a library till 1966 I could have visited it but never did.

Nor did I ever go to the children’s museum which opened in 1974 and showed a completely new exhibition every year aimed at children fewer than 12. Exhibitions explored such themes as Shelter, Energy, and Myths & Legends.

The museum had no permanent collection, but each exhibition featured objects and artwork on loan from Southwark Council's historic collections.

Sadly it closed in 2008 as part of budgetary cuts although the story doesn’t end there and I think this too will be something I return to

And in the meantime I am off to delve deep into the that gas worker's strike.

The history of the Labour movement  has long fascinated me and  and while I have written about the Chartists, the industrial conflicts here in the North and something of the Woolwich Labour Party I have never looked into what went on in Peckham and New Cross.

So I have Mr Livesey to than k for that along with Adam Burgess who first told me about the Livesey Museum and who went off and took the pictures.

Pictures; the Livesy Museum, 2015,  from the collection of Adam Burgess

*Sir George Livesey,

**The Gas Workers Strike in South London, Mary Mills, 2013, Greenwich Peninsula History,

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